Planting the seed, watching it grow...
A moment this past week had me thinking back to the spring of 2012. I had just finished my doctoral dissertation and had decided it was time to take better care of my body. I had been working full time, had 2 children under 5, and had previously spent all my free time finishing my PhD in Sport/Exercise Psychology. I decided I wanted to become a runner. I thought it would be 'cool' to run a 5k. Long story short, I had to overcome a fixed mindset about running, and bad knees in order to do that. What I found along the way was that the motivation required was connected to my identity as a mother. I realized I wanted to be an 'active mom,' a mother that was able to run/play with her kids rather than sit and watch them run around. That's not the part I have been reflecting on though... I have spent the past 7+ years running, working out, providing opportunities for my 3 kids to run 5ks with me. I leave the house most mornings dressed to work out and my kids see this commitment to my physical activity. Since my kids range from 12 yrs to 6 yrs old, they are at different developmental stages. I learned this past week that my consistent efforts have paid off with all three of them. My six year old asked me multiple times if we could go for a run during the holiday break. It doesn't matter than he doesn't run the whole time, or that the distance isn't as long as I would prefer. I'm more than happy to walk occasionally with him as his older brother & sister run ahead. I'm more than happy to talk to him about the joys of pushing your body to work hard, pacing so he can run longer, and controlling his breathing so he can recover faster. I emphasize the joy of physical activity and model the same. I did the same for my older two and they love to run with me so I know that the same patience will create the right mindset for my youngest son.
Sometimes as parents, teachers, coaches, we aren't sure if what we say or do helps those we are trying to teach. We often are planting the seed for them when we just want the results immediately. We have to be CONSISTENT with the message we are sending, and the reinforcement of that message. Then be patient as the behavior begins to evolve on it's own. When we want to create a behavior within another person, the best bet is to create a connection between their desired self-concept and the behavior. This worked for me and my desired self-concept of an active mom. An active mom keeps working out and includes the kids in physical activity in a fun way. By planting the seed for my children that we are a family that enjoys being active, I have shaped their self-concept. So now they ask me to go for a run and I smile as I lace up my running shoes :)